High school basketball: Ranking the top coaching jobs in the Catholic League

The Catholic League is a basketball conference that has grown steadily over the past decade. With an influx of individual talent while maintaining a state-level presence, it’s a league that continues to garner more attention in basketball.

As Loyola coach Tom Livatino, the league’s longest-serving coach at 14, noted, “The Catholic League has never been in better shape from a basketball perspective.”

DePaul Prep recently finished two state thirds — one in Class 3A in 2018-19 and another last season in Class 2A. Leo finished second in Class 1A in 2015-16, while St. Ignatius finished third in Class 3A last season.

The schedules that the Catholic League coaches have been putting together have also expanded, putting their respective programs on larger platforms at high-profile events.

In Mount Carmel’s DeAndre Craig, Brother Rice’s Ahmad Henderson, and Jackson Kotecki and Richard Barron’s St. Ignatius tandem, there are four Catholic League seniors who will sign to Division I programs.

St. Rita, which will be in the preseason top 5 at the start of the season, has the top three college prospects in the Class of 2024. And grad students Melvin Bell of St. Rita and Phoenix Gill of St. Ignatius are two of the Top five sophomores in the state.

Also, the Catholic League is unique in many ways, while so many other conferences, through no fault of their own, remain fairly mundane. As basketball improves, the unique brands within the league add to the allure.

If you delve deep into the 15-team league, there’s a wide range of, well, pretty much everything, and it’s a lot more diverse than you’d think.

The geographic landscape alone is truly unlike any other basketball conference in the state. There are nine schools spread across Chicago, from St. Francis De Sales on 102nd Street south to DePaul Prep north of Belmont Ave. in Roscoe Village.

There’s Loyola on the North Shore in Wilmette, Fenwick just outside the city’s West Side in Oak Park, Marmion and Montini in the western suburbs, and St. Laurence and Providence in the southwestern suburbs.

Schools across the league vary significantly in terms of socioeconomic background, both in terms of student population and the neighborhoods in which they are located.

There are schools of grades 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A. There are all-boys schools and mixed schools.

And the gyms they play in are generally in a class by themselves, a far cry from the generic, boring gyms we predominantly see in high school basketball. (Have you been to the Leo for a game?)

That being said, the coaching jobs at the 15 schools also tend to differ dramatically – again compared to other conferences that are more centrally located.

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As a result, the City/Suburban Hoops Report set out to find out which high school basketball coaching job is considered the best in the diverse Catholic league.

Coaches from across the league, both past and present, as well as others with strong ties to Catholic League Basketball were surveyed. You should consider several factors to rate the best basketball coaching jobs in the Catholic League, including:

• Winning and tradition.

• Location and access to players.

• Salary/wage for trainers and teachers

•Facilities and Resources.

Respondents were asked to rank the top 5 coaching jobs based on the criteria above. A total of 18 people cast their votes. First-place votes received 10 points, second-place votes eight points, third-place votes seven points, fourth-place votes five points, and fifth-place votes three points.

The end results were as follows:

1. DePaul Prep (106 points)

2. De La Salle (88 points)

3. Brother Rice (86 points)

4. Loyola (68 points)

5. Mount Carmel (64 points)

6. Fenwick (63 points)

7. St. Rita (55 points)

8. St. Ignatius (53 points)

9. Lion (16 points)

10. St. Lawrence (3 points)

A few interesting results of the voting:

DePaul was the only program that received the most prominence, ending up in the top 5 list of 17 of the 18 respondents. That resulted in the Rams finishing at No. 1.

Interestingly, there were eight different coaching jobs that earned at least a first place spot for best basketball job. These first place votes included: De La Salle (4), Loyola (3), Brother Rice (3), St. Ignatius (2), St. Rita (2), Fenwick (2), DePaul (1) and Mount Carmel (1).

Here are some off-the-record quotes from respondents:

DePaul Prep

What comes with their new facilities? I don’t think anyone in the league can even come close. … Families want to send their children to school in a safe area and DePaul provides that. … Lots of diversity in this school. … Playing in Class 2A every year provides a very cheap route to Downstate and regular trips to the Sweet 16. … Great athletic director there in Pat Mahoney. … build brand new sports facilities that will change the game. … DePaul has competitive salaries and a rich camp-money environment. … It’s a plus to be the only Catholic school on the north side of town, east of the freeway and in an affluent area. They can attract students from all over the city. … The job is great, but Tom Kleinschmidt was instrumental in making the job great. He built the program from the bottom of the league and this is as impressive a rebuild as you can find in the state. … The upcoming facilities will be groundbreaking for this program. Is this a sale for today? … I don’t know how great the job is, but I really think Kleinschmidt did that job. … Such a big draw for student athletes there. You can tap into so many different zip codes and elementary schools.

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De La Sale

Great basketball tradition, alumni base and administration wants to win. … Perfect area to attract the best players in the area and the resources to ensure those students can participate. … Very strong alumni base. … De La Salle’s central location makes it a great job. … They’ve had longevity and consistency in their program, having only had five head coaches since 1961. … Newer facilities are a plus. … The Class 3A path they have is favorable. … They’re right in the middle of the North Side and South Side, so they can pull kids from either direction, and it’s right off the freeway and has pretty decent tuition. … De La Salle has several places where events and camps take place. … The location of De La Salle can attract students and athletes from across the city and surrounding suburbs. … Right next to the metro station, the Green Line, the Red Line, the Autobahn. Only 20 minutes from the suburbs and 30 minutes from Indiana. … The equipment is an advantage. It is the first school in the Catholic League to have its own field house. … De La Salle has its own student bus and transport system, including an activity bus. Between public transport and what De La Salle has to offer, there is no better convenience.

brother rice

Tradition. There’s such a great basketball tradition there. … Your gym is one of the toughest places to play, especially when there’s a full house. … Brother Rice has many natural rivalries with schools in his area that inspire the community. …Basketball is a big deal at Brother Rice, which helps attract up-and-coming basketball players to their school. … So much tradition and success there since Pat Richardson took over the program in 1989. … That’s a hot bed for elementary school basketball, and it’s a perk that there are schools that offer quality coaching at this level as well. … If they get it going there, I’m not sure there’s more excitement about basketball in their community and student body than there is at Brother Rice. That’s a big draw.

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Loyola

The combination of competitive salaries, very good facilities, and top-notch academics is what makes Loyola such a good basketball job. … Loyola has won many games and found success without really having any talent in Division I in a league and area that is extremely competitive. Maybe that’s Tom Livatino, but it’s also a reference to the job, the kind of kid they’re having there. … The pay and benefits they receive at Loyola are probably the best in the Catholic League. … Loyola has a huge advantage with their facilities and resources – the weight room they have, the field house, the facilities for training and weight training. … The reputation of the school in this area attracts many families.

Fenwick

The location and access to players is one of the best, if not the best, in the entire Catholic League if you can move from Chicago’s western suburbs and West Side. …when the gym is full? I love this gym.

Mount Carmel

It’s a soccer school, but they’ve put a lot of basketball players and talent through the gym there. … Very nice equipment. … Remember that it is the last Catholic League school to win a major state school basketball championship. That counts for something, even if it was decades ago. … Mount Carmel really has access to a lot of players in that immediate area and beyond.

St. Ignatius

There really is a lot more for sale at Ignatius than people realize. It really offers something different than most schools in the league. … A wonderful job because of the location – close to downtown, in an affluent area with affluent supporters and alumni. … The school has several gyms and the campus is beautiful. … It has everything you need to sell to families and gamers. … Ignatius has one of the best academic/track combinations in the state of Illinois. … What makes it a great job are the high academic standards, beautiful campus, central city location and recent sporting achievements. … St. Ignatius can be one of the target schools in the whole region. … The salaries there are advantageous and very competitive, which makes this job attractive compared to other private schools.

St Rita

They have a rich history that is important. Before James Brown and Morez Johnson, there was Vic Law, Charles Matthews, and other Division I and NBA guys that came out there. … Overall, the sporting tradition in St. Rita is huge and that carries over to basketball. They’re known for winning and that makes it a lot easier.

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